It’s Term 4 and we all know what that means… monologue time! Here are 5 tips we've pulled together to pass onto students as they search for the perfect monologue.
Does your monologue have a clear moment of change for the character?
Many monologues created for students are funny or thought provoking, but they can lack a clear structure. This structure is very important for the individual project, the character you're playing should discover something and be changed in some way. This moment of change gives the monologue a structure that will support the student as they demonstrate Criterion 2 (Sustaining and developing role/character).
2. SCENE PARTNER
Can you cast the audience as your scene partner?
This may seem counter intuitive given that not all monologues have been written to break the fourth wall but there really is nothing worse than a young actor delivering their monologue to an empty chair, or worse, an empty corner of the stage. (Personally, I’m not a fan of the concept of a fourth wall… it assumes the default condition of theatre is contained within a box – I’ll rant another time perhaps)
My point is that our budding HSC candidate should ask a question of their monologue: who is this character talking to? And then, they should place that person out in the audience. The audience is your scene partner in a monologue so direct your delivery to the horizon line above/through the audience. If this isn’t possible maybe the monologue is too complex and needs simplification or is inappropriate for an IP.
Why does this piece need to be a monologue?
Can we all appreciate how weird monologues are. No one in real life ever monologues – maybe politicians or priests (but in a way, they are also performing).
So why does your monologue exist? Monologues are like music, poetry or dance. They express something that a simple sentence maybe couldn’t convey. It might be a way of communicating complex thought or extreme emotion (Chekov), a way of tying together the themes and ideas of a play (Shakespeare), it might be about the sound and texture of language (Beckett, Mueller)… so why is the piece you’ve chosen a monologue?
The request by the Education Standards Authority for a monologue of 7 minutes is crazy… they rarely exist in theatre so finding a quality one appropriate for an HSC student is super difficult (consequently the same material is performed year after year, discouraging the creativity that drama should be the prime advocate for). Young performers, in many instances, miss out on performing material that would really show off their skills and creativity because it falls below the 7 minute threshold.
Personally, I think students should have the option to perform two, 3.5 minute monologues as an alternative to the 7 minute monologue. Just a thought…
Does the monologue excite you?
You’re going to spend the next 6 months with this piece so make sure it’s something interesting, moderately challenging and sparks your imagination when it comes to potential staging.
Write down a list of questions you have about the monologue? It might be about who the character is, things you don’t understand, words you don’t get, confusion you have.
Pinpoint the most important images, lines, moments and changes.
Think about other ways to stage this monologue – could it be a physical piece or a sound piece? What could be a simple and interesting prop or set piece? With unlimited budget how might you do it, then scale it back.
Do you connect personally with this monologue?
Why do you care about this monologue? What excites you about it?
If you can answer this question, it’ll help get you inspired and will unlock a bunch of creativity for you too. See if you can connect personally to the message of the work – why are you of all people, passionate about the issue being addressed?
One thing I often encounter is young people getting very moved by the stories and plight of marginalised groups and seeking to honour these stories by representing them on stage. Often this means depicting mental illness, disability, homelessness, queerness and other cultures through performance.
Work with your students to find a voice that draws from their own experiences rather than those widely removed. Monologues like this will require a lot of nuance to do well and make the creative process more difficult for the student than it needs to be.
Hopefully these simple questions can codify something we as drama teachers do naturally and perhaps haven’t thought to articulate. Supporting the amazing work teachers already do in their classes is a passion of ours.
If you're keen to have a Matriark Mentor work with your drama class get in touch for 2020 - we've had a tangible impact on the results of HSC students we've worked with. Get in touch and let us know what you need!
Chookas to you all as we go into 2020, wishing all your students the very best!